Matt Cain

Giants look clueless against Odrisamer Despaigne (the new Kirk Rueter)

Buster Posey Matt Cain

Before Monday night’s game I asked Manolo Hernández Douen, the writer behind beisbolporgotas.com, what he knew about Odrisamer Despaigne. He compared the 27-year-old Cuban right hander — who was set to make his MLB debut against the Giants — to Orlando “El Duque” Hernández.

In other words, he’s one of those snowflake guys, where no pitch looks the same. An infinite number of arm angles and speeds, and the Giants … well, the Giants hit fastballs as well as any squad around. Crafty junk-ballers have always seemed to make them look like amateurs, and tonight was no exception in a 6-0 loss that in many ways was the Giants’ worst game of the year.

Well, maybe not the worst. But this was a “blah” game against a “blah” team where they couldn’t get anything going against a guy who was worse than “blah” in seven minor league starts before tonight.

“Our guys looked like they had trouble picking the ball up. He had a two-seamer going, he was cutting it. He hit both sides of the plate. He had a slow curve. He was changing arm angle. You hadn’t seen him before. I’ve always thought that it’s an advantage to the pitcher when hitters haven’t seen you before,” Bruce Bochy said.

Despaigne threw 90 mph fastballs and 68 mph curveballs. It didn’t really matter what he threw, because the Giants weren’t going to make solid contact. His numbers tonight were the exact opposite of what he put up in the minors.

In 31.1 innings (23.2 in Triple-A, the rest in Double-A), he allowed 60 base runners: 40 hits, 18 walks, two HBP. But he struck a ton of guys out (41).

Now, the Pacific Coast League holds their games on the moon and uses rubber “super” balls in place of normal baseballs. But we can probably at least assume that the right course of action would’ve been to let Despaigne show the Giants what he had. Let him screw up, since he’s spent the majority of 2014 doing so against lesser hitters.

Nope. The Giants were as hacktastic as you remember them being in each of the non-championship seasons since Barry Bonds (who was at AT&T Park on Monday night) retired without officially retiring. If it wasn’t for a solid at-bat from Brandon Crawford that led to a single with two outs in the fourth, Despaigne would’ve breezed through five innings in fewer than 50 pitches.

Despaigne allowed just four hits and walked no one, but he only struck out one batter. Weird game, that baseball.

“He pounded the strike zone, looked confident out there, was going in and out. He looked like he was playing catch with the catcher. Looked very comfortable. That’s a great spot start for them,” said Bochy.

Matt Cain had a quality start going as he headed into the eighth, but three straight singles (followed by a double by Seth Smith after Cain was replaced by Javier Lopez) added three more runs. In the end, despite a respectable eight base runners allowed over 7.1 innings, Cain was tagged with six earned runs to push his ERA to a Lincecum-like 4.82.

In the story from earlier today about the Giants’ reportedly scouting David Price, I mentioned Cain’s increased HR/9 rate over his last 55 starts (translation: since the perfect game). He didn’t allow a home run tonight, but he came awfully close when a fan reached over the front row of the arcade in right-center to catch Yasmani Grandal’s deep fly ball. (After a fortuitous review, it was ruled a double.)

Besides Will Venable hitting a deep drive to left-center that was caught by Gregor Blanco to start the game, Cain breezed through the Padres’ underwhelming (on paper) lineup with ease over the first three innings. With one out in the fourth, Everth Cabrera reached on an infield hit (a chopper to Michael Morse — the first hit of the game for either team).

For a few minutes after Cabrera’s single, it was like the Padres were hitting in the cage off Billy Hayes at 5 pm. Pablo Sandoval dove and snared Carlos Quentin’s liner. Then Grandal cranked a lousy changeup into an area that would be a home run in 95% of major league parks for that previously mentioned double, Tommy Medica drove a curveball to left for a double, and the Padres had three runs in the inning.

“The (pitch) to Grandal was really bad. The pitch to Medica wasn’t terrible. Maybe I could’ve thrown it lower or a little farther away,” said Cain, whose fastball still seems to have life. Here’s the problem: despite glimpses of the old Cain, the Cain of recent vintage throws too many pitches that grab too much of the plate that are hit too hard.

“I’ve been throwing the ball good, but I haven’t been making the pitch that I’ve needed to here and there to really shut down an inning and then keep the guys going. I need to do a better job of doing that and I think everything else will work out. But I’ve got to make those pitches,” he said.

Extra BASGs

— Cain received a few boos after handing the ball to Bochy, but — as I noted on Twitter — it sounded like the same guy booed multiple times. If anything, I was surprised at how many cheered as Cain walked off the mound with the Giants down 5-0 in the eighth.

— The Giants traded for Chase Utley. THAT’S NOT TRUE, I was just making sure you were still reading. I can’t imagine many people would want to spend much time exploring the finer details of this game.

— While the El Duque comparison makes a lot of sense, I couldn’t help thinking of Kirk Rueter while Despaigne got the Giants to hit weak grounders and pop-ups. Rueter made his Montreal Expos debut against the Giants on July 7, 1993. You can probably figure out how that went: 8.1 innings, no runs, two hits and five strikeouts. Oddly, Rueter walked three. The loss dropped the Giants to 56-29.

— The Dodgers lost to the Royals on Monday night, so the sports talk callers will probably take Cain’s latest performance in stride. Or not.

— Marco Scutaro will start a brand new rehab assignment, as he’s scheduled to play three innings on Tuesday with the Arizona League Giants.

— As for Angel Pagan, who knows.

“I think he’s the same. I haven’t had a chance to talk to our trainers after the game. He comes up during the game and gets treatment to see if we can get him over the hump. But I haven’t heard anything, so as far as I know he’s the same,” Bochy said.

I asked Bochy to clarify what “the same” means. Does it mean his back is still stiff?

“Well, he’s taking batting practice. He’s doing all the stuff, but it is still … he still feels it in there and he hasn’t felt any improvement in the last couple of days. After BP today, he said it still feels the same.”

I left the clubhouse after Cain spoke. Why? Because as I alluded to earlier, about as many people will read a recap of this Giants loss as a standard A’s win. But Pagan spoke to reporters.

Normally I’d go into my spiel about how the way the Giants use (or don’t use) the disabled list is silly, but they placed Ehire Adrianza on the DL before Monday’s game and brought Juan Perez back from Fresno. Besides calling up Adam Duvall (who has 23 home runs in the PCL), I’m not sure what else they could do besides hope Pagan’s back stops feeling “the same.”

I might suggest trying their luck with their newest addition from Cuba, Daniel Carbonell. But he may still be in Mexico, working on getting his work visa.

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